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Bad Boys: Ride or Die Review

June 7, 2024 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Bad Boys Ride or Die Will Smith (Finalized);Martin Lawrence (Finalized) Image Credit: Frank Masi, Sony Pictures Entertainment
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Bad Boys: Ride or Die Review  

Directed By: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Written By: Chris Bremner, Will Beall, and George Gallo
Runtime: 115 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

Will Smith – Mike Lowrey
Martin Lawrence – Marcus Burnett
Eric Dane – James McGrath
Jacob Scipio – Armando Aretas
Paola Núñez – Captain Rita Secada
Ioan Gruffudd – DA Lockwood
Vanessa Hudgens – Kelly
Alexander Ludwig – Dorn
Dennis Greene – Reggie McDonald
Rhea Seehorn – Judy Howard
Melanie Liburd – Christine Lowrey
Tasha Smith – Theresa Burnett
Quinn Hemphill – Callie Howard
DJ Khaled – Manny the Butcher
Joe Pantoliano – Captain Conrad Howard

The Bad Boys, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), return for their latest intense, action-packed extravaganza. Bad Boys: Ride or Die rolls into theaters more than 29 years after the original 1995 film’s release date. The longevity of the franchise’s near 30-year existence is impressive, along with the skill with which filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah continue to breathe new life into a franchise that appeared irrelevant and outdated when Bad Boys for Life hit theaters in 2020. Bad Boys: Ride or Die does have its storytelling issues, but the directors Adil & Bilall still manage to create a compelling, entertaining thrill ride.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die picks up with Mike Lowrey getting married to his physical therapist, Christine (Liburd), who helped him recover from his gunshot injuries in the previous movie. Unfortunately, Marcus suffers a devastating heart attack during the wedding. Marcus experiences an epiphany, and he undergoes a spiritual awakening throughout the film, believing that it’s not his time to die. Sadly, their late friend and superior officer, Conrad Howard (Pantoliano), is posthumously framed for corruption by the drug cartels that showed Armando Aretas (Scipio) execute him in the previous movie. Representing the cartels is the cold-blooded, vicious former soldier, McGrath (Dane).

Before he died, Captain Howard was getting very close to exposing corruption within Miami law enforcement and connections to the drug cartels, so it now falls on the Bad Boys to exonerate their friend’s good name. While seeking to unravel Howard’s investigation, Mike and Marcus enlist the help of Mike’s son, Armando. McGrath then hijacks Armando’s prison transport, framing Mike and Marcus in the process. Mike and Marcus then become fugitives from the law, with the feds and the entire criminal underworld of Florida gunning for their heads.

Mike and Marcus are getting older, but at least the film truthfully acknowledges their respective ages and that they are no longer the young bucks they used to be. Mike deals with panic attacks throughout the film, causing him to hesitate in the heat of battle. Marcus’ heart attack causes him to become more spiritual and less fearless, and the newlywed Mike now feels a greater sense of mortality since discovering his son’s existence. It flips the dynamic between Mike and Lowrey in an amusing way while allowing the characters to show vulnerability.

The biggest problem is that Bad Boys: Ride or Die becomes a bit too weighed down in its attempt to balance the sheer number of subplots and characters. The plot juggles the dynamics and interpersonal relationships between Mike and Marcus and Mike’s frayed relationship with Armando Aretas. Additionally, Chris Bremner, Will Beall, and George Gallo’s screenplay also incorporates Armando’s issues with Captain Howard’s family members and his role in killing Captain Howard. Not to mention the AMMO team members, Captain Secada and her relationship with DA Lockwood, the minor subplot with Marcus’ family, and Mike’s new wife Christine, among others. There are a lot of characters here for a relatively simple, straightforward action movie. The earlier Bad Boys movies mainly focus on Mike and Marcus, and now that they are a bit older, the film expands the supporting cast to share some of the weight.

As a result of the sheer amount of characters and subplots, some ideas feel lost in the shuffle. For example, Mike’s wife, Christine, barely exists as a character here and is severely underdeveloped. Considering Mike’s reputation as a ladies’ man, it would be nice to get to know more about Christine. What made Mike want to settle down with Christine? The last movie appeared to be setting up a potential romance between Secada and Mike, which the plot jettisons for Mike’s marriage to Christine. The sequel also acknowledges Mike’s past relationship with Marcus’ sister, Sydney (Gabrielle Union), and it would be nice to see Sydney Burnett again to bring some better closure to that relationship. Perhaps that idea is better left to Bad Boys 5?

Judy Howard is another character who suffers from underdevelopment as the late Captain Howard’s daughter, as well as a US Marshall. Judy Howard was never previously depicted in the film series, yet she inexplicably becomes part of the fugitive manhunt when Mike, Marcus, and Armando go on the run. The drug cartels framing her father for their illicit activities sparks the central conflict. However, Judy Howard seems less phased about her father’s corruption allegations than desiring revenge on Armando. She even openly reveals her plans to murder Armando on the streets if given the chance. Judy and her daughter Callie (Hemphill) then figure into Armando’s emotional arc of redemption for his past crimes. By the third act, the plot decently manages to bring these elements together, but Judy’s formal introduction into the franchise suffers from a flimsy setup.

Where Adil & Bilall excel in handling Bad Boys by bringing an old-school 1990s action vibe with a more modern, unique visual lens. At times, the action tends to veer a bit tight when it’s Mike and Marcus, but in the second half, the action opens up and becomes more creative and visually exciting. One action sequence switches to a first-person perspective during a shootout in a continuous camera shot. Ride or Die takes more than a few inspirations from modern action games and shooters, but does so in a way that benefits the action sequences.

Another action scene later in the film creates a satisfying culmination of the previous two movies that will have the entire audience cheering. Viewers will know it when they see it. Adil & Bilall also provide a few fun homages to Michael Bay’s famous shots created in the previous films. Even with all the modern flair and visuals, Ride or Die never forgets its 1990s action roots.

Despite nearing its 30th anniversary, Bad Boys has weirdly become an action franchise that gets better with age. While the plot suffers from the number of characters and subplots at work, it eventually finds its footing with the incredibly satisfying, riveting third act. Bad Boys: Ride or Die presents a well-rounded, satisfying action movie experience.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Bad Boys: Ride or Die showcases an interesting action movie anomaly. It's a franchise that started in the 1990s, had an underwhelming sequel in the 2000s, and then went dormant for 17 years before making a strong comeback. Ride or Die is another fun action-filled adventure for Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett. However, it's strange that after almost 30 years and four films, it is only now the series appears to be finding its stride. But the filmmakers should still bring Sydney Burnett back in the next movie to bring closure to that relationship.